Auditory alarms are an important component of human–computer interfaces, used in mission-critical industries such as aviation, nuclear power plants, and hospital settings. Unfortunately, problems with recognition, detection, and annoyance continue to hamper their effectiveness. Historically, they appear designed more in response to engineering constraints than principles of hearing science. Here we argue that auditory perception in general and music perception in particular hold valuable lessons for alarm designers. We also discuss ongoing research suggesting that the temporal complexity of musical tones offers promising insight into new ways of addressing widely recognized shortcomings of current alarms.